The myth of ‘live’ online classes

Every now and then I get asked about ‘live classes’ at 2IIM. Till a few months ago, I used to explain that live classes are not what they seem, but these days I cut any discussion short and say straightaway than we at 2IIM also offer live classes. For the record, we at 2IIM also offer live classes, but with a mild feeling that we are pandering because we cannot convince people well.

The phrase “live class” evokes this beautiful picture of this fabulous online space where student and teacher commune and have one of those Socrates-Plato talks. A place where one can ask a question the moment it is formed in the mind and the teacher will stop the discourse, pause and nod in appreciation of said question and then go on to clarify that doubt before seamlessly reconvening with his own original line of thought. In reality, none of this ever happens. None of these can ever happen in a one-to-many setting.

In your typical one-to-many live class, the teacher sets out with a set of questions he/she plans to solve, adds 1-2 bits of theory and discusses them one by one on some platform. Any doubt/query you have can be posted on to the platform and the teacher will discuss this at some point of time in the future. The doubt-clarification sessions are fairly disjointed and exist as free-wheeling tropes to give one an illusion of preparation. Imagine listening to an intense video on learning Python while chatting on WhatsApp and browsing Facebook and you can get a rough idea of how doubt-clearance sessions happen.

But this is not my main crib with ‘live’ sessions. E-Learning gives students three key freedoms – of learning anywhere, at any time and at your own pace. ‘Live’ Sessions kill two of these freedoms – you have to attend at the appointed time and you have to follow at the pace set by the class. Live Sessions also fare worse than discussion-boards (moderated ones) on doubt-clarification.

Finally, live classes are often far poorer than pre-created ones. For the 2IIM online course and youtube channels, I have probably shot 1000+ videos and so with reasonable experience I have upped the efficiency of the shooting process. But I can confess that I usually do around 2-3 ‘takes’ for every video that I take because there is something about the explanation that does not satisfy me the first or second time. I either tweak the presentation or modify my explanation a little bit before reshooting. This after having spent hajaar time in creating the presentation just the right way. A live class simply does not afford this luxury.

I still immensely enjoy the live classes that I take because there is a certain thrill in shooting from the hip and improvising to convey an idea. But there is a big difference between a teacher enjoying the class and ALL students taking value from the class. Live classes are useful for the 5-10% of people who are already very good and are looking to just have a quick dip into a set of tough questions. For the rest, they are more or less a waste of time.

Note that all of these issues on ‘live’ classes are with the one-to-many live classes. If you get the opportunity to have a bunch of one-on-one live classes with a qualified teacher, you should jump at that chance. That is a whole new ball game and if the teacher is good, then this is the real deal.

Why then do people want live sessions?

For two reasons – 1) Students want to have this feeling of personalized service. A place where they can speak to the teacher directly and discuss something. The parallel to the classroom model is the idea of hanging back at the end of the class to discuss something for 5 minutes. This is very vital and this is the main reason why we at 2IIM do have live classes. 2) The second reason is that everyone likes the idea that something bespoke is done for them. The idea that when presented with a  fabulous buffet offering, one wants to exercise the option of asking the Chef to toss 2 masala Dosas with extra ghee for them.

When thinking about an online course, please keep in mind that the ‘live’ class component is perhaps the icing on top of the cake. An online course that completely comprises only live classes offers a far inferior proposition to a well-built online course. We at 2IIM offer the entire course on a spectacular platform that has no ‘live’ option; we supplement this with live classes on another platform in order to provide fun and flavour. Checkout, sign in as a trial user and go through the course.

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